12.30.2008

Fabricated Memoir Sparks Anger, Sadness

Re: News of Fabricated Holocaust Memoir Sparks Anger, Sadness

man stretching the truth
How does the saying go? Oh yeah! "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." And good intentions is what Herman Rosenblat and his wife had when they told a tall tale to those in the publishing world. The AP article quotes Rosenblat as saying, "I wanted to bring happiness to people...I brought hope to a lot of people. My motivation was to make good in this world." So, the Rosenblats stretched the truth to fit their good intentions.

According to the AP article, "Rosenblat's believers included not only his agent and his publisher, but also TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey, film producers, journalists, family members and strangers who ignored, or did not know about, the warnings from scholars that his story did not make sense."

Publishers LunchRelated news were also listed in today's Publishers Lunch, which talked about the repercussions of this fabricated tale in a children title. This 12/29/08 edition of Publishers Lunch tells us that, "Lerner Publishing Group, also duped into publishing Herman Rosenblat's fake Holocaust love story in the children's book ANGEL GIRL (released this September), is recalling the book. The company is "issuing refunds on all returned books" and "no longer offering the book for sale."

This is a financial hit to the publisher...at a time when publishers are having to watch the bottom line more than ever. And, by default, it's also a hit to authors everywhere wanting to get their manuscripts to press. Publishers Lunch quotes the author of the recalled Lerner Publication title as saying, "throughout the development of this book, the Rosenblats reviewed my manuscript and assured me of the authenticity of the details of their story. Unfortunately, I, like many others, am disappointed and upset to now learn of Herman's fabrications."

Regardless of who's to blame for yet another publishing misstep, with the Rosenblats being the primary culprits on this one, the result is the same and it's not a good one. The AP article is right when it states that, "Publishing, the most trusting of industries, has again been burned by a memoir that fact-checking might have prevented."

Whose responsibility is it to vet information sources prior to acquiring or publishing a manuscript? I always thought it was the author's responsibility. The literary agent and publisher can and probably should require backup research from the author. But must they now add the role of detective to their already overloaded job descriptions? What could the various gatekeepers within the publishing world have done to guarantee that what they were hearing from the Rosenblats was true information? Write back and let me know what you think.

2 comments:

  1. This hoax is a tragedy. The Rosenblats have hurt Jews all over and given support to those who deny the holocaust. I don't understand why Atlantic Pictures is still proceeding to make a film based on a lie. I also don't understand how Oprah could have publicized this story, especially after James Frey and given that many bloggers like Deborah Lipstadt said in 2007 that the Rosenblat's story couldn't be true.
    There are so many other worthwhile projects based on genuine love stories from the Holocaust. My favorite is the one about Dina Gottliebova Babbitt - the beautiful young art student who painted Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on the children's barracks at Auschwitz. This painting became the reason Dina and her Mother survived Auschwitz. After the end of the war, Dina applied for an art job in Paris. Unbeknownst to Dina, her interviewer was the lead animator on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They fell in love and got married. Now that's a romantic love story! I also admire Dina for her tremendous courage to paint the mural in the first place. Painting the mural for the children caused her to be taken to Dr. Mengele, the Angel of Death. She thought she was going to be gassed, but bravely she stood up to Mengele and he made her his portrait painter, saving herself and her mother from the gas chamber.

    Also, Dina's story has been verified as true. Some of the paintings she did for Mengele in Auschwitz survived the war and are at the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum. The story of her painting the mural of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the children's barrack has been corroborated by many other Auschwitz prisoners, and of course her love and marriage to the animator of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the Disney movie after the war in Paris is also documented.

    Why wasn't the Rosenblatt's story checked out before it was published and picked up to have the movie made?? I would like to see true and wonderful stories like Dina's be publicized, not these hoax tales that destroy credibility and trust.

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  2. Thanks for your insightful comments, Jack. I couldn't agree with you more regarding how the Rosenblats' actions have hurt Jews all over. I also didn't realize the number of red flags that had been raised and were ignored by the publishing industry...and continue to be if the film project moves forward.

    I LOVED reading about Dina Gottliebova Babbitt. I'd not heard that story before. How beautiful. Do you know if any books at all have been writen about it? I agree with you. That would make a beautiful film, book, story, documentary.

    Thanks again for posting your comments. They are educational and insightful.

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